I have to admit to being more than unimpressed when I turned 40. Like many I felt that I should have “made it”. Achieved world peace, wealth, physical fitness, a size 10, my bucket list, the works.
I spent a year or two in denial, telling journalists not to print my year of birth (privacy concerns, naturally) and generally finding ways to simultaneously nurse my outrage whilst pretending that age didn’t matter to me.
Finally, at 42, I snapped out of it. Thanks in part to my husband, whose calm, very grown-up perspective was able to smother the flames of my fear, but also because we had committed to using our forties to reconnect with a more spiritual (NOT religious!) path to enlightenment. A voyage of soul discovery.
During it, it has occurred to me that I’ve learned many lessons in life, many, many times. I joke that I don’t want to make the same mistake more than three times but in honesty, I’ve found that a hard goal to achieve. The potential for mistakes sneak up on you long before you realise you’ve been down that road before. We, as humans, fill our heads with too many anxieties to be conscious or mindful of such things, and instead must be happy with 20:20 hindsight and wisdom for the most part. More so as parents, with a constant mirror to our flaws being played out by our children on a daily basis.
So. Midlife catharses (note the plural). I’ve had many catharses in my life, some voluntary/self inflicted, and others foisted upon me. Each time I have been driven to dropping the negative, building on the positive, auditing what I need to live with, and discarding what is holding me back. In the beginning, these were career choices, but soon moved onto relationships – business, friendships, family relationships that needed reframing to make sense.
I’ve given talks on such matters because I’ve made so many mistakes that it would be madness to not enable others to learn to make different ones instead. Growing mistakes to bring Groundhog Day to an end more quickly… so we can all move on.
What’s so special about my midlife catharsis is that it is a continual process of learning and change that I would not have committed to while I was still fighting to achieve for the sake of achieving. In surrendering to who I am now, a transformation of sorts has been sparked and I’m hoping by blogging it, others will join me and share their learning too. And if you want to join me, then it’s worth defining exactly how to do a midlife catharsis effectively. I’m expecting my definition to change and be refined as I map out the cul-de-sacs and hopefully get back on track afterwards.
Before I do any defining, it’s important to note that I’m no guru and nor do I intend to be one. I’m a doggy-paddler in the river of life, hoping to find people to swim with who can teach me how to swim stronger, and people I can help keep their heads above water.
Ok. Definitions. Here’s version 0.1 (suggestions and edits welcome but you get my meaning I hope):
A midlife catharsis is the process by which an individual sheds pretensions associated with age and beauty, pressures of goals not achieved, and the expectations of others and themselves not met, and begins to reach a state of well-being ready for true personal growth. During this process, the act of doing (whatever they choose to focus on) becomes more effective, more rewarding. And the desire to do good is finally transformed into the empowerment to DO good, and doing it.
In short, life begins at 42, though I hope for you it starts/started earlier…